Will concrete keep the copper thieves away?

Electrical boxes before and after they were covered with concrete. Photo courtesy Steve Appleton

It’s been almost a year since thieves ripped out about $50,000 worth of copper wiring along the new L.A. River pathway in Elysian Valley, blacking out about 100 newly installed LED lights.  The thieves broke into the electrical pull boxes installed at every light pole and pulled out the wires buried underground. Last month, workers began the time consuming and costly task of preparing each box for a new concrete cover that officials hope will deter the copper thieves.  An email from a city official published by the  Elysian Valley Neighborhood Watch blog explains how the target hardening will work:

“Our crews started work on the LA River Bikeway 1C the second weekend of January (1/7-1/8), the first weekend was a Holiday. So we have been out there for only four weekends so far. The initial work, which is starting at the North end of this section of bikeway (Fletcher Dr) involves sawcutting around the pullboxes, followed by the removal of all of the concrete around the pullboxes (very labor intensive and time consuming). We then have to rework the conduit and reset the pullbox at a lower grade so we can pour a concrete cap to seal each pullbox.”

The lights won’t be turned on until June after the city spends about $400,000 on the repairs, a city official told Steve Appleton, President of the Elysian Valley Neighborhood Council.  That sounds a bit steep by Appleton said the lights will help improve safety and deter other crime along the increasingly popular pedestrian and bike pathway. “It’s quite important for the community,” he said.

The copper thieves, however, seem to be turning their attention to other nearby targets.   A police officer recently informed residents that copper wire thieves returned once again to a nearby bakery for more of the valuable metal.


  1. Maggots. There’s a special place in hell for people that make their living off of destroying the community for the rest of us.


    If only there were some way to give them the shock of their lives if/when they get down to the copper wiring! Not kill them . . . Of course, that would require a kill switch at DWP or some sort of shock-proof gloves for DWP workers.

    Of course, in today’s sue-happy atmosphere, the thief with a weak heart would then sue the City for stressing him out/causing a heart attack.

    Sounds like what we have here is a no-win/no-win situation.

  3. It is hard to differenciate copper thieves from recyclers. Basically the recycle buyers require California ID and people need to report thief promptly. Hopefully blogs like this report thief also and maybe alert citizens can catch repeat offenders.

  4. Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper to purchase utility boxes with locks rather than sending crews out to make concrete covers?

    • The pull boxes had locks and bolts but the thieves were still able to break into the boxes.

      • Actually, the “locks” or rather security bolts WERE SUPPOSED TO BE INSTALLED BUT THEY WERE NOT! This was a problem with the contractors, Bureau of Engineering and Bureau of Street Lighting. So, while security bolts may not have been the final solution, they may have helped. As it was the boxes were left able to be opened by hand even with a simple wrench.

        Given that similar theft occurred upstream north of fletcher drive a few years ago, special attention should have been given to this. That is precisely why the Elysian Valley community has been so up in arms about this.

        Yes the thieves are at fault but they were aided and abetted by City of LA negligence. In light of the City’s financial crisis it is astounding to many of us that someone did no lose their job over this. Hear this community: we need to keep our hand on the wheel where it concerns the enactment of improvements in our area because there are real problems with the departments involved. Look over their shoulder every chance you get, ask questions and demand answers.

  5. Let’s do away with the overly polite term “copper thieves” and call them what they really are: meth addict loser fucks…or something like that.

  6. need solar panel lights like the LA river bike path north of los feliz blvd. no wires to steal.

  7. How about a few police stakeouts? Seems like the crooks are pretty bold so will very predictably hit the same spots almost right after new wire is installed. Cameras would help too.

  8. This is a huge sum of taxpayer money being spent needlessly to put restore the lights put along a sparsely used bicycle path along the river. $400,000 is a HUGE Sum of money when the city is broke?? Years ago on the part of the sparsely used bicycle path along the river from Fletcher Drive up to where it ends at Riverside had thieves steal all the wiring out of the lights there, I think it occurred more than once. There were no lights for years and now they have put up very costly solar lighting to benefit a few people who have the courage to ride out there after dark. The new lights cost a fortune. Why did the city not learn from what happened on up the river and do the lights correctly in the first place or put in solar lights-whiche I would quess could be stolen too.
    All of the money spent on these projects could be used in such better ways, but the city wants to cater to a small but powerful lobby. The only ones who really benefit from this waste of tax money are the gangbangers and the homeless who live along the river in the drains, bushes, etc. Such a waste!!!!

    • Actually who benefits are the resident and recreational users of the river and the gangbangers and criminals lose ground. The lights make this a safer and more pleasant place as the growing crowd of river lovers will attest.

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